Never Stop Fighting for Justice

Police shooting at targets

Once again, another unarmed Black man was shot and killed by the police. His crime? Running away. As articulated by The Washington Post:

“A Pennsylvania police officer’s fatal shooting of a 17-year-old who police said had fled a car that the officer had pulled over Tuesday night in East Pittsburgh is drawing wide outcry, as video circulated showing the teenager gunned down as he appeared to run with his back to the officer.”

As I watched the video, it reminded me of a hunter killing his prey. Although you are not supposed to run from the police, doing so should not result in your demise. Blacks oftentimes run from the police because we are scared, terrified for our lives. Historically, the police have not been there to protect and serve our communities, but rather to control. Unfortunately, I am not surprised by the tragic events that happened in East Pittsburgh. The sad reality is that Black lives appear not to matter. This is evidenced by the routine killing of unarmed persons of color.

What will it take for it to stop? We need to demand accountability and transparency in all facets of our criminal justice system. Contact your legislators, volunteer in your community, and spread the word about your efforts to effectuate change. Above all, never stop fighting for justice. ​​

Melanie Bates is a former NBL member and a contributor to NBL News.

‘Lawyer dog’ case highlights the need for Cultural Awareness Training

Lawyer dog

“Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process.”  – Thurgood Marshall

Recently news broke about Warren Demesme, a Black man, who told detectives, “…just give me a lawyer dog,” but the police ignored his request. The Louisiana State Supreme Court found the defendant’s reference ‘ambiguous and did not constitute an innovation of counsel that warranted termination of the interview.’ This is simply unconscionable.

It is undisputed that Blacks are racially profiled and discriminated against consistently by law enforcement, due to implicit bias stemming from the horrendous history of this nation. Any police officer in this country therefore should know that in the Black community, the term ‘dog’ or ‘dawg’ refers to another human being.

This case illustrates the crucial need for all police departments to participate in comprehensive Cultural Awareness Training. Learning how to navigate across cultural lines would improve communications and allow for more dignified exchanges between the community and law enforcement, decreasing the probability that individuals’ rights will be violated. The protections we are afforded under the U.S. Constitution, especially the right to counsel, should be applied fairly to all people. Poverty, lack of education, and other social issues should not feed the pipeline to prison.